Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Bloodied Body of Christ

In light of the horrific media accounts of sexual abuse scandals in the Church and failures within the Church, at every level, as reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, I couldn't help but think of the bloodied body of Christ. I was thinking this past week of Christ, his rejection, humiliation, suffering, the pain of the crucifixion and death. For the Church and public relations this Lent has been the Lent "from Hell." The accusations I have read from victims of abuse have made me want to vomit. Literally. 
From a personal viewpoint, the only priests I have ever known were kind, intelligent, caring, human beings. They prayed for me when I needed prayers and help my through losses in my life. The horrific accounts I have read are beyond my comprehension. 
Where did I find peace today? What gives me comfort? Going to Mass today, worshipping and praising God with my family.  The Palm Sunday liturgy was beautiful and moving. I love to watch faith-filled people, even in the midst of this Church crisis,  most parishioners have their eyes "fixed" on Jesus, as they should. I had a busy day, a good day enjoying a large family gathering, delicious Italian food, laughter and family stories. We also celebrated my aunt's 90th birthday on Saturday evening. Today was more celebration. There is much to be grateful for. 
But I still think about the crisis in the Church. I'm troubled as most Catholics are about the complexities of this crisis and how the Church will handle it in the days and weeks ahead. 
Another thing I've been thinking about is how will reparation be made to God,  for the grave sins, that were commited.  In my mind, reparation needs to be made, not only to victims but to God as well. 
Who is praying to know God's will and how to proceed in all this? I hope and pray, religious and laypeople are praying for wisdom to know God's will and to bring about healing. 
These are some of my thoughts, I'm very tired and it's time to rest, but my concern for the Church is great.  There is much that has to be done, in my humble opinion. I'm not sure what but I know that it will take intense prayer and reparation, common sense, compassion, intelligence, pragmatism, deep reflective listening at every level to know God's will, to act with courage, to move on with hope. 

As Christ came into the world, he said: ' Behold I have come to do your will, O God.  (Heb. 10:5, 7)

O have become the ladder for us to mount to heaven."
St. Paulinus of Nola

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Deep Faith Of Many

The last few days I've given a number of talks on prayer to adults. I've shared with them and they've shared with me. It's not always easy for adults to talk about their relationship with God and their prayer life. It's very personal and I understand that. So I'm always grateful when people offer to share their thoughts, feelings, struggles and aspects of their faith journey. Many people have insecurities and fears in relating to God and drawing closer to God in prayer. I remind them of how often the words, "Do not be afraid," appear in Scripture.
One woman, who is studying and preparing to be a Lay Leader in the Church expressed to me and the larger group, "I feel unworthy when I come to prayer, I feel a certain unworthiness." It reminded me of a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, and I paraphrase, "We should always remember whom we are addressing when we come to prayer." Good advice from the great Doctor. I said to the woman, who shared part of her struggle that, "We all feel that way, to some degree, who can be totally worthy of a deep, abiding relationship with God?" But God does indeed want to have a deep relationship with each soul. Many saints have said that over and over again. And each soul is unique and special to God. I also reminded the retreatants that we always have to depend on the unconditional mercy of God, which is always present in our seeking of God. I also mentioned my devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. St. Therese, knew the depths of God's mercy, she wasn't afraid. She knew she was "little, weak," and unable to "reach" God on her own, she depended on the mercy of God to lift her to heights she couldn't attain on her own. For Therese, being "little, frail and weak," was to her advantage, she could then call upon God to help her. She knew Scripture well, "Let the little ones come to me...." and "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord." Depending totally on God's merciful love and God's abundant mercy is what Therese's famous "little way," is all about. Her little way served her well, after her death, she became not only a canonized saint, but years later was declared by Pope John Paul II, to be the youngest Doctor of the Church. She accomplished much in 24 years and I believe it was because of her deep relationship with Jesus, which bore great fruit and continues to do so. 
Whenever I give talks to adults, I'm always uplifted by their deep faith, their desire to serve the Church. They love the Church and want to grow closer to God. They know as I do that the Church provides a "vehicle" to grow closer to God, to experience God and commune with God through God's word and the Sacraments, which is unique and life-giving. We also speak about saying "yes" to God and our response to God's will and all that entails. 
As I tell adults when I speak about faith or prayer with them, I always get something as well. I'm sharing my deep faith and I spend a lot of time preparing and praying beforehand, but I always receive more than I give. I'm always given new ideas from the faithful which I then share with others. And what is it that I pray before I give a talk? I simply pray, "Come, Holy Spirit, Come." In English and Latin I pray that simple but powerful prayer,  as well as the Prayer to the Holy Spirit. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Greater Role for Women

I grew up in a matriarchal household. My mother and my aunt (my aunt lived upstairs from us growing up) were strong, Italian matriarchs. I can be outspoken and part of that is because I grew up in Brooklyn (native New Yorkers are not afraid to speak their mind, usually) and also because of the influence of these strong women in my life. 
I'm not afraid to say what's on my mind, even at meetings and sometimes I'm too honest and outspoken (upon reflection). But in any event, I was encouraged to read on the internet last week, an article that was mentioned by a number of Catholic bloggers and it also appeared at the Catholic News Service site--
It was about an article that appeared on the front page of the Vatican newspaper-L'Osservatore Romano. It was written by Italian journalist and professor, Lucetta Scaraffia, who writes frequently for the newspaper. She basically wrote that there is a need in the Church for a greater presence of women in decision-making roles (she wasn't talking about women in the priesthood). She was writing about administrative and consulting positions. She feels that women have been left out (for the most part) of positions of responsibility which has hurt the Church as their gifts and talents have not been fully utilized. I totally agree and I believe that the Church would not be going through this difficult time (at least not to this horrific degree) if women (religious and lay) would have been consulted over the years. Women are intuitive, compassionate,  accustomed to multi-tasking and they can usually size up a situation quickly. Common sense is also needed at every level along with collaboration between men and women. You can have the best of intentions, great programs and initiatives but you also need common sense and a real understanding of where people are in their lives.
When women and men work together to get things done, to plan initiatives and programs, to assess and manage situations, that kind of collaboration can bring about a lot of positivity and growth anywhere it happens and most especially in the Church.
There are lessons to be learned from all the negative press of late about the Church, the shattered lives, which is the most tragic of all, the mistakes and regrets, the embarrassment of the faithful over all this and the loss of faith of so many. 
I pray that lessons are learned, changes are made, healing takes place, and some good comes from this painful, hurtful, negative time in our Church. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Buying A Little Happiness

With all the depressing news of late, it's good to know that you can buy some happiness. According to an article titled, "Buying Happiness Is Possible," according to studies, it is possible to buy happiness, but you have to buy life experiences and not material objects. The findings are based on eight separate studies which agree with previous research suggesting that, "People's satisfaction with their life experience purchases-anything from seeing a movie to going on a vacation tends to start out high and go up over time. On the other hand, although they might be initially happy with that shiny new iPhone or the latest in fashion, their satisfaction with these items wanes over time..........The people who thought of a material purchase were significantly more likely to report feeling concerned about the buy and less satisfied with their choice at present than those who had recalled an experiential purchase." I definitely understand that since whenever you buy something, you can later question the purchase. Did I really need that? Did I pay too much? Will it wear well? I frequently ask myself when shopping: "Where am I going to put another pair of shoes?" (But honestly, I buy them anyway!)
I've always valued experience which is why I love to travel, visit new places, go to museums, parks, landmarks and walk around NYC. So I totally agree that money spent on positive life experiences can not only buy happiness but can be stimulating, fun, entertaining and a learning experience as well. As a matter of fact, as I've mentioned before, New York City (or living near the city), is such a stimulating place to live that you don't even have to spend a lot of money to have interesting experiences. You can take a walking tour of any NYC neighborhood or even a small town in a suburb, have a cup of coffee or an ice cream, visit a few shops, a new Church, (I managed to slip some religion in), and have an enjoyable day, just experiencing a new environment. One of my favorite pastimes-people watching-is a great New York phenomena. 
And the Spring is coming.....which is the best in the Northeast.
Next weekend, I will go with my family and members of my extended family to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. My two young cousins are very excited to visit the museum and I'm excited to spend the day with them. We've done this before, "a family adventure," and it's always a great day. Last year we toured the Empire State Building, I had never been on the observation deck, it was great. So yes, I fully agree, spending money on interesting and enjoyable life experiences, especially with family or friends, is much better than buying material things, which wear over time, lose their luster and have to be cared for. And as my friend and and I always laugh about, we've heard that when you die, no one wants anything you have anyway (except for the jewelry). Young people today like what's modern, for the most part, they are not interested in our collectibles, trinkets or fine china. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weird Catholic News Stories

Just when I thought I had heard it all or read it all, a news story comes out of The Times of London and a "weird news article" about the article appeared on AOL News this evening (and you know a lot of people are reading it) which quotes the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, the man who apparently served as the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years. What he is quoted as saying is "The devil has infiltrated St. Peter's." What's especially upsetting about news stories such as this, is that people are reading this crazy stuff and probably being upset by it. Anyone who cares about the Church would be upset by it, I know I am. 
In the AOL article written by David Knowles titled, "Satan Is In The Vatican, Catholic Exorcist Says," he quotes Amorth, who is the founder and president of the Association of Exorcists, (who became an official exorcist in the Church in 1986, according to the article), "When one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true." 
He is also quoted as saying some other unfavorable and ridiculous things about some Cardinals and Bishops. How much negative news about the Catholic Church can the faithful take? I often wonder how God doesn't lose patience with us. Where would we all be, without God's mercy?
The Church has been in the headlines in Europe with unfavorable news stories of late. There are plenty of online articles which place the Church in a bad light. The Church needs some good public relations and some positive "advertising." The secular media seems to only want to report the sensational, disturbing news and not any of the positive news stories. Most people are not even aware of all the good that the Church does, for instance, all the money that was raised in the U.S. and elsewhere to help the suffering people of Haiti. (This topic came up just this week in a Bible study class I attend.)
The Church needs some "strategic planning" to promote positive news stories about "bright lights" in the Church, the modern day heroes and heroines, the good that is done throughout the world through the work of Christians. 
I have a very deep faith, an unwavering faith, but realistically there are people with weak faith and these news stories can be harmful to their belief and faith. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Keeping Your Mind Off The News

These are challenging times for the world at large and for the Church.  I was saddened to read in a number of popular blogs (Whispers intheLoggia- and Deacon Greg's blog-( about the need for restructuring in the Diocese of Brooklyn. The plan titled, "Christ Jesus, Our Hope," ( might result in the closing or merger of a quarter of the Catholic Churches in Brooklyn and Queens. Brooklyn and Queens have more Churches per square foot than anywhere in the world (I read that somewhere a long time ago.) That might be about to change. And we have some of the most beautiful Churches too. Those who are responsible for the restructuring plan will need our prayers, this is not going to be an easy process. 
There was some good news too in Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, The Tablet. "At two seperate Rite of Election Prayer Services, Feb. 21st at Christ the King HS in Queens, Bishop DiMarzio formally accepted 904 catechumens and candidates for the first sacraments in the Diocese." They are preparing for full entry into the Church at the Easter Vigil Services.  My good friend, S. Alice Michael, S.U.S.C., coordinates the RCIA program and she always does a great job. I would have volunteered to help her that day, but I was away. I'm usually there most years either working or as a volunteer.  It's an uplifting day for me, to see the enthusiasm of the candidates and their yearning to become Catholic.
We need more positive news in the Church and less negative news. I'm sick of so much negativity. So how do I get my mind off of the negative news? In a number of ways. 
My usual stress reduction techniques include walking and other forms of exercise, Centering Prayer, going to Mass, praying and reading. Something I've recently added is that I'm learning to play Bridge. Bridge is a challenging card game but I'm learning with a group of women, and so we are trying to master this game together. It's a great game to stimulate the mind. I never played cards before, except as a child, but I heard that learning Bridge is a great way to keep your mind active and prevent memory loss as one ages. (I hope I don't age, but it might happen!) There is much to learn so we're being patient with ourselves. People get "obsessed" with playing Bridge. I do find it enjoyable but I already have an interest or "passion" which takes up a lot of my time.   
While learning to play Bridge I learned about a prominent member of the Vanderbilt family, who had a passion for playing Bridge. Harold Vanderbilt was a very rich man and apparently he played a lot of Bridge and became a champion Bridge player. I found that interesting. 
But in any event, I'm praying for more good news in the days and weeks ahead, I just can't bear hearing about another natural disaster or challenges facing our Church.